Grocery Diaries

How a Couple Eats for 2 Weeks on $180 (Thanks to Grocery Subscription Services)

updated Oct 16, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Sean

Name: Sean
Location: Schenectady, NY
Ages: 50 and 54
Number of people in household: 2; Sean and his husband, Dan.
Occupation: Government Relations/Grants Management and Teacher/Musician
Grocery shopping for how long? About 1 to 2 weeks
Where did you shop? Misfits Market, ButcherBox, the farmers market, and rare trips to our local grocery store chain, Price Chopper/Market 32.
Did you get your groceries delivered or did you go to the store? Most were delivered.
How much did you spend? $ 179.99. This is higher than usual because it included our monthly shipment of grass-fed beef and organic chicken for $129.
Dietary restrictions? I avoid seafood due to a severe allergy.

Credit: Courtesy of Sean

How did you choose where to buy groceries?

As a public health professional with formal culinary training, I try to purchase healthy ingredients that are locally sourced and sustainably raised. We get most of our pork, poultry, and eggs from an organic farm run by a friend of ours. A couple of weeks ago, we filled up our chest freezer with 87 pounds of pork from our “pig share.” That is enough for about a year, supplemented with monthly shipments of humanely raised, grass-fed beef from ButcherBox. We were lucky enough to be early subscribers to ButcherBox, signing up long before the start of the COVID-19 emergency, so we didn’t experience any delays in getting shipments, even at the height of the pandemic.

We are blessed to live in an agriculturally rich region of Upstate New York. Our local farmers market runs year-round with vendors offering organic produce, sustainably raised meat and dairy, and even specialty products like baked goods, honey, coffee, beer, and spirits. However, when the pandemic started, they shuttered our local farmers market for several months, so we signed up for a weekly shipment of organic produce from Misfits Market. Despite the fact that we have a small backyard, we grow some of our own produce in container gardens and pots mounted vertically on the wall. We also have a DIY hydroponic setup in the basement for the cold winter months.

Credit: Courtesy of Sean

Given all of this, we rarely have to go to the grocery store unless we need pantry staples. We carefully stocked our pantry throughout the first months of the pandemic with shelf-stable staples, including lots of dried beans, rice, and commercial-sized bags of flour, so we rarely have much on our list other than coffee and diet soda. When we do make a grocery store run, we tend to shop at a locally-based chain called Price Chopper/Market 32.

Credit: Courtesy of Sean

What time did you shop and what was it like?

We received our Misfits Market delivery on Saturday, and our monthly ButcherBox delivery on Monday, so we didn’t have a lot of required shopping. However, I did go to the weekly farmers market on Sunday with our neighbor Leslie. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from home. Because of COVID-19, they fence off the market and limit the number of patrons that can enter at any given time, but there is rarely a wait. Face masks and social distancing are required, but a local team of ambassadors provides free hand sanitizer and masks for those who need them. We usually do a lap of the market first to see what is available, but I have my preferred vendors. They always seem to be the ones with long lines, particularly now that you are only allowed to approach the vendor one at a time. As expected for this time of year, there were tons of apples, pears, and other seasonal fruit, as well as plenty of greens, root vegetables, squash, and cabbage.

How did you meal plan?

I usually wait and see what products we receive from Misfits Market before I start meal planning. Also, I’m not fond of wasting food, so I plan our meals to use up ingredients based on their shelf-life. Usually, we eat many greens-forward meals at the start of the week, then, as the fresh produce runs low, switch to more pantry-oriented recipes later in the week. Because of our shopping habits, there is a seasonality to our meals. This means we eat many salads in the summer and heartier soups and stews in the winter. 

Credit: Courtesy of Sean

What did you buy?

Produce: Misfits Market delivered a pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes, four Roma tomatoes, two white onions, four yellow onions, two red bell peppers, four red potatoes, four white fingerling potatoes, two small heads of broccoli, a cucumber, a massive zucchini, a bunch of green leaf lettuce, a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, and an Asian pear. I also picked up some leeks and two bunches of rainbow chard at the farmers market. Our garden is also still producing, despite the autumn chill in the air, and I was able to harvest about a pint of cherry tomatoes, a handful of green beans, and three Ortega chili peppers.

Pantry staples: We didn’t need any, thanks to a well-stocked larder.

Frozen: As with pantry stapes, we didn’t need any.

Meat and dairy: Normally we would wait and get eggs from our friend’s farm, but I was in desperate need, so I bought a dozen eggs at the farmers market. I also picked up some artisan pepperoni while there to make pizza. We also got our monthly delivery from Butcher Box, which included a rasher of bacon, four 16-ounce packages of ground beef, a 24-ounce grass-fed beef top sirloin cap, four 6-ounce grass-fed beef top sirloin steaks, three packages of organic boneless skinless chicken breasts, and three packages of organic chicken wings.

What couldn’t you find?

I was hoping to find some spinach at the farmers market to make a Greek-inspired spinach and feta pizza, but substituted rainbow chard instead.

What do you plan on making?


I usually don’t eat breakfast during the weekday and instead opt for a cup (okay, several cups) of coffee. I also exercise with a personal trainer in the early morning several days a week, so sometimes I have a protein shake after if the workout was particularly grueling. My husband eats breakfast before heading to the school where he teaches. Usually, I make him a couple of egg bites. On weekends, we typically have a late breakfast or early brunch. That meal is usually more substantial. This weekend we had huevos rancheros on Saturday and breakfast sandwiches with bacon and cheese on Sunday


Most weekday lunches consist of leftovers from the night before, an advantage of being a household of two when most recipes make four servings. Monday’s lunch was the leftover homemade pizza from the night before, Tuesday’s lunch was cowboy chili over a roasted sweet potato, and so on. On weekends, because we have a large meal later in the morning, we usually skip lunch … although we might snack on fruit or popcorn.


On Sunday, our next-door neighbors came over for a casual dinner. They are one of two couples in our “quarantine bubble” with whom we feel comfortable socializing. I fired up our wood-fired outdoor pizza oven. We usually have at least one pizza night weekly. I made four individual-sized pizzas — margherita, pepperoni, bacon/tomato, and Greek — and served that with a side salad and some fresh plum crumble using fruit left from last week’s shopping.

On Monday, I plan to make cowboy chili with jalapeño cornbread, while Tuesday will be pork-stuffed bell peppers. Wednesday is the one day that I go into the office. That is usually a long day coupled with a 45-minute commute each direction, so we usually get takeout from a local restaurant. We’re friends with many local chefs and restauranteurs, and we have been trying to support them on a rotating basis throughout the pandemic. On Thursday, I will be leading a candlelight walking tour of our neighborhood, telling stories of the various ghosts that haunt the old buildings, so I will likely start a batch of potato-leek soup in the slow cooker. On Friday, I plan to make some Korean beef bulgogi with zucchini and a side of roasted broccoli. Finally, Saturday will likely be pizza night again (although I have been tinkering with the idea of homemade falafel on fresh pita bread). I also will use some of the chicken we just got to make some air-fryer wings while we cheer on the Buffalo Bills during their next few games.

Credit: Courtesy of Sean

How is this different from how you normally shop?

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed things for us. We are shopping at grocery stores and warehouse clubs less and relying on our Misfits Market and ButcherBox deliveries more. In the past, my husband and I would go to the grocery store three or four times a week, usually on the way home from work. Now, we go once a month or less. When we go to the store, it is generally for pantry staples to replenish our stock of shelf-stable goods. We are also a lot more conscious of waste, trying to make sure that we do not let any fresh produce go unused. If we can’t use it, we will find a way to preserve it through freezing, canning, or pickling.

We’ve also become a lot more reliant on local producers, shopping at farmers markets and directly from local farms where we can source sustainably raised meat and eggs. We are making sure that we support growers in our area during these economically challenging times. Both my husband and I are fortunate in that we are still employed full-time. We recognize how lucky we are, so we want to do what we can to support the local economy.

One other significant change is less about how we shop and more about how we plan and prepare our meals. Cooking has become my “therapy” during these challenging times. While I have always tended to be the primary chef in the home, my long commute and busy days before the COVID-19 pandemic meant that I did a lot of meal prep on weekends. Likewise, my husband often had school functions or musical rehearsals late into the evening, so we either ate something that I had prepared over the weekend or we ordered in. Now, I am working remotely from home on most days of the week. This new schedule allows me to make fresh meals from scratch nearly every day — including homemade bread, cheese, and yogurt.

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